Dick Durbin redefines “Old White Men” in Washington, and he’s exactly what we need in 2020. | NIU Editorial Writing, Candidate Endorsement
Donald Trump got elected as a Washington “outsider.” Americans voted to “drain the swamp” and to “shake up” Washington elites. But the past few months have proven that changing the culture of Washington isn’t easy to do if you don’t know how Washington works, and learning on the job may not be advisable for the Leader of the Free World. Assuming Trump makes it through the next four years and chooses to run again in 2020, the growing question for Democrats remains who their next presidential candidate will be, and moreover, who their winning candidate will be.
The clear answer can be found in Dick Durbin, U.S. Senator from Illinois.
On the surface, Durbin is the opposite of what modern liberals need to champion. He doesn’t fit the “outsider” trope, having served six terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and currently serving in his fourth term as a senator. Durbin is as far-left as one could get, being the Democratic Whip for more than ten years and consistently aligning himself with party policies. He is also the dictionary definition of the “old white man” candidate that causes many young democrats to fight for congressional term limits.
How, then, is Durbin the perfect presidential candidate? By being a clear anti-Trump.
Part of Hillary Clinton’s failure as a candidate was not being distinctive enough from Trump in terms of character. Her email scandal, her history with her husband’s infidelity, and her willingness to take money from dubious sources tarnished her credibility in ways that were too similar to Trump’s questionable integrity.
Durbin has somehow managed to stay away from corruption throughout his 35-year Washington career. His entire resume of scandals can be reduced to two instances, both of which were unsubstantial and short-lived. In 2005 Durbin compared Guantanamo Bay interrogation techniques to those utilized by the Nazis and the Soviet Union. He was widely criticized in the immediate aftermath and apologized before Congress, but his remarks were later praised for raising legitimate issues of morality. In 2014 it was reported that Durbin’s female staffers were being paid $11,000 less than his male staff members, but it was researched and reported by a notoriously conservative PAC. Their sources have never been corroborated, and subsequent reports have only been on activist conservative websites, not legitimate news outlets.
A Washington career with only two minor blips is as close to spotless as it gets. Trump, by comparison, has created a controversy for himself nearly every week of his four months as President. Those instances would undoubtedly be re-surfaced during presidential debates, but they pale in comparison to Trump’s laundry list of failings, and Durbin is universally acknowledged as one of the best debaters in the senate.
Where Trump is polarizing and divisive, Durbin is the calm in the storm, and it’s all in his manner of speech. You can tell when he’s angry, but he doesn’t scream across the senate floor. Even if you disagree with him, he’s hard to argue with. The message that got Elizabeth Warren kicked off the senate floor was repeated by Durbin, but when he talked, the senate listened. The elephant-in-the-room investigation on Trump’s ties to Russia usually leads to chaotic argument, but Durbin shifts the conversation to bipartisan unity.
The most convincing argument against Durbin is his age – he will be 76-years-old by 2020, and should he win, the oldest President in history. But Trump will be 74 by then, so it’s apples and oranges, and with a qualified running mate at his side, Durbin’s age would be just a number. If anything, Durbin is living proof that with age comes experience, and experience in leadership is exactly what our country needs.
Today’s America is not one that walks a line of moderation. It’s not surprising that we’ve followed Obama’s liberal, inclusive, groundbreaking administration with an alt-right, deregulating, constitutional-originalist one. We’ve tried the “outsider.” It’s time for the pendulum to swing back inside.
Have you ever re-tweeted your own tweets so you could whine about the same thing twice? Sean Hannity has.
Last month, Ted Koppel ran a story on CBS Sunday Morning about the political divide and polarization in America. Most of the story included clips from various points throughout history, and a small portion featured an interview with Sean Hannity.
The story was not a profile of Sean Hannity. Hannity’s comments were not the basis for the story. Yet between March 26th and 28th, Hannity tweeted and re-tweeted 23 times to complain that his interview was 45 minutes long and the portion CBS used was edited “unfairly.”
He even went so far as to run a special feature on his own show about “The Anatomy of EDITED Fake News." The ALL CAPS in the title was OMINOUS and THREATENING, and I was waiting for an intense breakdown of Koppel's piece explaining how and why it was FAKE. Instead, Hannity spent his time connecting random, factually-dubious dots to create a CBS-fake-news-conspiracy-theory tracing back through generations of newscasters. Of course, Koppel being a contributor for CBS for one year makes him culpable as the leader of the CBS-fake-news army, right?
It was painfully clear that there was no validity against anything Koppel did and Hannity was merely throwing spaghetti against the wall to see if it would stick. But the act of dedicating an entire TV segment to attack Ted Koppel brings Hannity’s usual banter to a new low. Ted Koppel is a legend who paid his dues and demands respect, yet Hannity declared him "not a journalist." The irony of Hannity thinking he understands journalistic integrity (or journalism in general) is rich.
If Hannity understood journalism, he would know that interviewers give interviewees the basic idea of the piece, so Hannity knew it was not a profile and anything he said would be used merely as context.
If Hannity understood journalism, he would know the interviewee has no rights to the final published story, so CBS can edit however they wish. Unless Hannity sues CBS for defamation and a court mandates the release of the full interview (which is not a winnable case) CBS does not owe Hannity anything.
If Hannity understood journalism, he would know that editing is a necessary and standard practice. If it wasn’t, we would expect novelists to publish their first drafts and 20-minute segments on 60 Minutes would be 6 months long. Hannity’s definition of edited news being “fake” is incorrect and ridiculous.
Hannity’s final tweets on the subject were perhaps the most telling to his attitude:
“Hey John,” he responded to John Heilemann, “who called the election of 2016 correct? You told me @POTUS had ‘no shot’. And I am ‘bad for America’? This arrogance is laughable” Translation: I was right, you were wrong. Let me spit on the ground you walk on.
Followed with, “I'm so thankful to expose ‘Edited Fake News’. I don't give a sh/;()$& what any media people think of me.”
Translation: I don’t know how many characters to use to make up the s-word, so I’m just going to smack my keyboard for emphasis against those darn “media people.”
And of course, only a true journalist would put his punctuation outside his quotation marks.
Let’s all just be honest: no one noticed or cared that news pieces are edited until Hannity got his feelings hurt and cried to twitter about it. All he proved was despite his flippancy in assigning the term “angry snowflake” to others, he is the most appropriate definition of one.
Unfortunately, Brown’s chances of medaling at World’s this year are nonexistent. Brown was forced to take his only quad jump out of his program after suffering an injury, and winning without a quad is a complete impossibility.
That was hardly the case a mere four years ago at Sochi. While the quad has been an occasional feature in men’s skating since the 1990s, most skaters have chosen to rely on the execution of other elements instead of adding the physically demanding quad. At the 2010 Vancouver games, American Evan Lysacek took home the gold without a quad, and in 2014, Canadian Patrick Chan earned the silver medal with only two quads.
Just last year, Chan was still critical of skaters who attempted more than two quad jumps, stating “the quality of skating is diminished” because “what you're going to end up seeing is just people moseying down the ice and setting up for a quad.” Chan has three quads planned for this year’s Worlds, but has never landed all three in competition.
That brings us to the second U.S. men’s representative, Nathan Chen, who is competing at the senior level for the first time this year. Chen instantly broke ground with a program that features 5 quads which he always lands, making him the only skater in history to land 5 in competition. Quad jumps earn higher point values due to their level of difficulty, so landing them gives Chen an instant upper-hand. It allowed him to beat reigning Olympic and World Champion, Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan, at Chen’s very first international competition last month. This sets a precedent that raises the standard for male skaters worldwide, and certainly makes Patrick Chan’s comments about three quads seem antiquated.
While Chen’s quads are an incredible feat, the focus he puts on them during training takes time away from mastering his other components. Brown, on the other hand, earns some of the highest technical scores in the sport, but will still need to add at least 2 quads within the next year to remain relevant. The top Americans are playing catch-up in opposite ways – unfortunately for Brown, it will be harder to gain athleticism than it will be for 17-year-old Chen to refine his craft.
To be successful at next year’s Olympics, skaters are going to need to bring both sides of the sport to the table: athleticism and artistry. For now, a quad can certainly bring excitement – as Patrick Chan said, they’re “a slam dunk contest,” – but the most memorable performances are owned by veterans who demonstrate the long-lasting tradition of the sport.
DeKalb is not going to make “fetch” happen.
Gretchen Wieners tried in Mean Girls, and every person, city, and state has something that is their “fetch.” In DeKalb county, it’s a train.
Last month DeKalb citizens’ social media buzzed with excitement over a change.org petition which requested Metra Rail’s Union Pacific West Line to extend to the DeKalb/NIU area.
This is not, by any means, a new proposition. Dave Hedin of DeKalb commented on the petition: “The current Metra train stops 18 miles short of the largest city in the area that also includes a large university, which has never made sense to me.”
Hedin isn’t wrong. It really doesn’t make a lot of sense for the UP West Line to stop in Elburn instead of DeKalb. Many students at Northern Illinois University commute from the Chicagoland area and the surrounding suburbs. The NIU Huskie Bus only travels to the Elburn trains station twice a week, and a Greyhound bus line makes a stop to the station only once a day. For anyone to make a regular back-and-forth commute, this requires owning a car, bumming rides off of friends, or working a schedule around the bus.
No one can argue that a train station in DeKalb would be a welcome addition to the town. The change.org petition has already garnered 1,237 supporters. And it doesn’t matter at all.
Why? $400 million.
That’s what it would take to extend the UP West Line to DeKalb. We can stop trying to make “fetch” happen. It’s not going to happen.
The Metra Board responded to the petition and said it wasn’t going to happen. They’re already “$11 billion in the hole for railroad maintenance on existing tracks,” according to Mark Pietrowski, the DeKalb County Board Chairman. Pietrowski made clear that this idea has been a local consideration for years and has never made it past the petition stage.
Even DeKalb citizens question whether they should keep pushing for it to happen. Many are on board with the train expansion in theory, but their tune changes when taxes are discussed. DeKalb County would need to join the Regional Transportation Authority and DeKalb residents would pay RTA taxes. Due to outstanding debts and repairs on existing tracks taking priority, there are communities which have been paying into the RTA for years that still don’t have a track.
Local businesses certainly don’t want to make it happen. 10 months of the year, NIU students are the primary customer base downtown DeKalb storefronts. If students hop on the train and leave every night and/or weekend, that’s income flying out the window.
At this point, circulating a petition on social media and acting like this is the NEXT BIG THING for DeKalb is just silly. Illinois and NIU already have enormous financial problems. We don’t need to spend millions of dollars to prove we’re relevant. We’re never going to be as cool as Regina George. We’re DeKalb.
Amy Alexander’s recent commentary, Today’s Feminism: Too Much Marketing, Not Enough Reality, attempted to critique flaws in third-wave feminism. We who call ourselves feminists should be open to constructive criticism in addition to celebrating our achievements as a movement, but Alexander did not offer anything substantive to the conversation.
First-wave feminism gave women the right to vote and own property – if you were white. Second-wave feminism championed equal pay and the dismantling of traditional gender roles – if you were white. Luckily, third-wave feminism has been defined by inclusivity, fighting for women of all races, religions, sexual orientations, and gender identities. The movement isn’t perfect by any means, but Alexander’s editorial was an unfulfilled argument built on unsubstantiated claims.
Alexander made many bold assertions:
2017 Feminism’s equality messages are superficial and don’t address real issues. The Women’s March was “tone-deaf” to working-class black women. Women of color who spoke at the Women’s March are “superficial and insufficient,” and asking them to participate is an opportunistic scheme created by white women to feign unity. Leadership does not consider intersectionality important when demonstrated by women of color.
These would all be important, scathing arguments if there were facts, quotes, or examples to back them up, but Alexander provided nothing to support her claims. Moreover, it would seem 2017 feminism can do nothing to appease her; if feminism doesn’t address black issues, but it’s also “insufficient” when black women speak to those issues in the name of feminism, how are black women supposed to have a voice and be heard?
Tearing down a movement without a justifiable reason to be holding the sledgehammer doesn’t solve anything. If feminists, both black and white, spent more time striving toward common goals instead of constantly criticizing each other, true intersectionality might be achieved.
When people think of environmentally damaging industries, they usually think of “dirty” industries like oil, mining, and sewage. But what about the industries that make the shoes on your feet, your trusty pair of jeans, or your favorite mascara?
We rarely think about clothing and beauty products beyond our own closets, but the growing popularity of environmental activism has created a higher demand for environmentally conscious fashion and cosmetics.
The fashion industry has been dubbed “the second dirtiest industry in the world next to big oil.” That claim has yet to be completely corroborated, but the severity of the fashion industry’s environmental impact is clear. Many smaller industries are involved in the process of producing clothing, including farming, processing, manufacturing, and shipping, all of which involve chemicals, water waste, and pollution. In fact, 4 of the top 10 polluting industries in the world are used in the creation of fashion items.
The biggest area of criticism within the industry is “fast fashion,” which produces inexpensive clothing at a high turnover rate. Retailers like H&M, Zara, Forever 21, and Target are at the forefront of the fast fashion market, and they gladly supply the demand. The appeal is obvious; every time you go to Target to pick up a gallon of milk, you can glance at the clothing section and see something new that you have to have.
Unfortunately, the desire for the “new” causes sweatshops and manufacturers to produce at all costs, using thousands of liters of water and several million tons of chemicals in production each year.
But the impact doesn’t stop after production. When an item goes “out of style” after a short fashion season and consumers are ready to get rid of their clothing, thrift stores are unlikely to take the items; fast fashion items are often cheaply made to begin with, and because items go out of style so quickly they’re considered “worthless” and 75% of garments end up in the garbage. To make matters worse, many fabrics can take up to 50 years to decompose in landfills.
Fast fashion isn’t the only industry contributor to environmental damage. High-end designers who use imported fabrics and ship their designs to-and-from their international fashion houses forget the impact that vehicle emissions have on their carbon footprint.
For the average person, conscious consumerism is key to making sustainable fashion choices. Purchasing the majority of your clothing from resale shops and boutiques is an easy way to make sure you aren’t financially contributing to fast fashion. If you have more freedom in your budget, looking at the fabrics and materials of your garments (no dyes or non-organic cotton) can prove valuable. As fashion designer Vivienne Westwood has said, “Buy less, choose well, make it last.”
While it’s unlikely that the fashion industry will convert to an entirely sustainable model, many designers and celebrities are taking a stand against its bad practices. Eileen Fisher, Stella McCartney, and Ralph Lauren are leading sustainable designers, and several prominent celebrities, including Emma Watson, Zac Posen, and Lupita Nyong’o, have made bold statements about sustainability.
Many beauty brands are beginning to adopt a sustainable attitude as well. It is fairly common for beauty items to be sold in sustainable packaging like recycled (or recyclable) paper, plastic, or glass.
Some companies have taken conscious consumerism a step further to address the global impact of factory farming. Most cosmetics use animal products in their formulas, and many companies test their products on animals. By adopting cruelty-free testing and creating vegan products, companies are taking a stand against factory farming.
Unfortunately, the beauty industry has not developed a fully accountable system in their environmental activism. Some brands that claim to be cruelty free are owned by parent companies that are not cruelty-free, which can raise doubts over product sourcing within the company. In addition, product labeling isn’t always clear, and consumers could easily think a product that is labeled “cruelty-free” is free of animal products altogether. It is important to note that cruelty-free products only address animal testing, while vegan products address the product formulas themselves.
Researching vegan cosmetics involves a careful look at product ingredients. Ingredients to avoid include keratin (found in hair, nails, and horns of mammals,) squalene (made of shark liver,) collagen (made from bones, tissues, and skins from animals,) guanine (made from fish scales,) lanolin (made from the grease of sheep’s wool,) carmine (made from insects,) and beeswax.
Luckily, there are many cosmetic brands that have jumped on the vegan bandwagon, from affordable brands you can find at the drugstore lie NYX, Physicians Formula, Wet n’ Wild, Milani, and E.L.F, to high-end brands like Tarte, Kat Von D Beauty, Urban Decay, and Too Faced. While animal-hair brushes still dominate the market, many cosmetic tools, applicators, and brushes are going vegan as well.
Whether or not eco-friendly models in clothing and beauty brands will become mainstream remains to be seen and will likely depend on continued consumer demand. With luck, awareness of the environmental impact of bad practices will continue to grow, and the desire for every industry to become environmentally aware will rise in tandem.